WEAPONS OF THE SINHALESE SOLDIER.

WEAPONS OF THE SINHALESE SOLDIER

The ancient text of the Sinhalese provides the names the weapons that were used in battles. These were known as the ” Pasavi ” or Pas Avi or five weapons. This is still worn on the Pancha Ayudha talisman by Children of Sri Lanka for protection. The weapons are Dhunna( Bow ),the Mugura(The Club), the Adayatiya(a  javelin  ) , the Kaduwa( Sword) and the Thomaraya. The sword included the small shield the Paliha and the larger shield the Palagaya. The Kuntha was used as long Spear or Bara-lansaya and Dutugemunu carried it to battle and used as Royal Emblem.

The production of and the supply of these weapons is on ancient Indian texts on warfare.read Master General Ordnance.

Remains of a few ancient weapons or pieces there of has been unearthed in the proximity of ancient fortresses Mahagama and Anuradhapura where battle took place.Weapons of same shapes are on ancient Coins, sculptures and paintings and a shapes of a few on ancient pottery. These give us an indication on what they looked like. Henry Parker has described many of these in his book Ancient Ceylon.

A Temple Painting- Kandy

The Sword and the Bow were the ordinary arms of the people, and were often carried by the chiefs and sovereigns,when they were engaged on warlike expeditions, when the Javelin or short throwing spear is added the list. These  are the five weapons of war, which according to Clough’s Dictionary were the sword, spear, bow, battle-axe, and shield, are once alluded to collectively in the Mahavansa as pancha ayudha[Five weapons].

Prince Wijaya, who became the first sovereign, is described in ancient text , as being armed with five weapons including the Sword when he landed in Ceylon(Mah, VII, verse. 16). A Sword of state was also included among the presents sent by the Indian Emperor Asoka to Devanam-piya Tissa in the third century BC, and we are told that this king carried a bow when hunting Sambar deer (Mah., i, p. 5o).- H Parker. King Parakramabahu called for his Sword , when a wrong sword was brought he ordered  the “Sinhala blade” be brought.[ Chap 72 Verse 104]

SWORDS.

Painting at Dambulla Caves

Sinhala Foot-Soldier went into battle with Swords drawn and Circular Shields. Notice the shorts worn and scabbards slung crossed over shoulders.- Painting of Battle scene at Dambulla caves.

The sword shown in Ancient Ceylon- H Parker include those used by the Sinhala soldiers.

Weapons of   Soldiers of Portuguese , Dutch and English periods.

SWORDS

The paintings of Sinhalese Foot-Soldiers is depicted at  Ajanta Caves [ 2nd -6 th  Cent ]paintings may depict  the coming of Vijeya to Sri Lanka. The swords carried is similar to those shown above from Dambulla vihare.

Sinhlaese Foot Soldiers carrying Swords – Ajanta cave paintings. BOWS.JAVELINS AND SPEARS. The Sinhalese Soldiers carrying Spears from Ajanta Cave paintings.Many metal Spear heads were unearthed at Tissamaharama and they look very much like those on the painting. These are shown below in diagrams as 188, 189, 190 etc.Sinhalese Elephant Corp carrying Long Spears or Javelins.

Henry Parkers study of Swords in Ancient Ceylon 1909.

The Sword or Kaduwa,  The earliest representation is perhaps is engraved on fragment of pottery found by him at Tissa, probably pre -christian era.It has a long handle  with substantial cross-hilt, but no other guard and a broad slightly curved blade wider at a short distance  from the end than near the hilt.

Engraving of a Sword on fragment of pottery[ Pre- Christian Era?

A Pillar engraving of a soldier with sword at Jetawana Dagabo built by  King Mahasen. The sword has straight edge, somewhat short-pointed weapon, carries a circular shield over left arm.

The best examples are from Ridi-vihare Kurunegala District  where a dance of Soldiers are displayed , some of them carry swords and Shields, the former is straight and pointed with and without a straight cross-hilt , but in either case having no guards.This temple is believed to where Dutugemunu got his supply of Silver metal which was cast in to Kahapanas  to pay for the construction of the Maha-seya.

PAINTINGS.

Dambulla vihare painting retouched up by a priest of mid 17 Cent  to reproduce olde painting believed to be of Nissankamalle time[ 12 Cent AD], sketches of H.Parker show straight blades   having cross hilts in the form of crescents and some crescent are reversed.

Straight Blade with Crescent shaped Cross-hilts

Carved Below an inscription of the 9th or 10 th Cent AD on a face of a pillar at Weligama Vihare near Bibile sketched by H Parker, a Sword of some what different type having a cross hilt which ends in a curl on one side.The blade  is very long narrow weapon, twice as wide towards the point  as it is near the hilt. The blade is contracted sharply up to a point, which is extremely short.

Carving of Sword – Wilgama Vihare.

Kastana Swords.Is a small one edged sabre.These have curved hilts made of Buffalo horn, ending with a lions head, inlaid with brass, silver or Gold, usually some work of the same king fixed or inlaid on the lower part of blade. All have guards, and there is a half cross-hilt on the opposite side. Used a Ceremonial Sabres by Chiefs.

The Sword were of Vane the sinhala term for  Steel, Sri Lanka was producing a best quality steel of the ancient period. They were able to do so a due the Wind Assisted Linear Furnaces be had mastered. A lot of research has been published by Jil Julianzs….

For more  Sinhala Sword

Types of Swords-Temple Paintings.

SCABBARDS.

These were made of two wooden  plates held together by bands of silver or brass. Some of them were engraved and inlaid in silver and gold.

The text books which was adhered too, by our kings that is now available was the Arthasastra of Kuatillya, according to this the various type of Swords were

Swords are Nistrimsa, Mandalagra and Asi-yasti.

The Hilts for Swords  are made of Horn of Rhinocerous and Buffalo, the Tusk of Elephants, Wood and Bamboo  Root.

The refereance to the use  or mention of type of swords in the Mahavamsa is shown below in red

Sword: [asi] 10.59 f; A palm leaf floating in water Turns into sword in Pandukabya’s hand.

 22. 44; 22 53; Queen Viharamaha devi longed to drink the water that cleansed  the Velusumana’s Sword that cut off the head of King Elara General

66. 108 ; Parakramabahu’s Sword

 72. 84. Parkraambhu use clash of sword with Gen Rakka forces.

Khagga   25.63; 25.89; 30. 93; 3l. 79; 64. 4; 66.24; 31, 49; 72.102; 88. 74 &c’

Tharu used  in Ch  24.verse 1;Dutugemunu was versed in bearing the Tharu or Sword

 69. 22- During Parakrambahu I  he wished people skilled in handling of Swords  should increase in number amoung others

Royal swords  72. 102-4). The Sinhala Sword

BOWS

The types of Bow and the Arrows of the ancient period is best described in a  Buddhist story where Mulunkyaputta told the Buddha that he will not become a holy man unless he explained to him is the Universe eternal or is it not eternal, is the universe finite or infinite,……., does  the Buddha exist after death or not exist or both. The Buddha explained to him that it was not necessary to know these answers to become a holy man and told him if a soldier is wounded by an arrow and brought to a surgeon, suppose the soldier would say ” I will not let the arrow be taken out until I know who shot the arrow,………….., I will not allow the arrow to be taken out until I know the kind of bow with which the arrow was shot; the kind of bow string  used, the type of arrow; what type of feather was used, on the arrow,and  with what kind of material the point of the arrow was made”. The Buddha been a Ksatriya was an expert at the use of this weapon.

The mediveal manuscript the Dambediya Asanaya many types of Bows are mentioned. Yona Duna[ Arabic ], Thanthru Dunu[?], Gal Dunu[ those that cast stones], Matam Dunu, Ruvan Dunu[ Bows decorated in gold], Mara Dunu[ Death brining Bows or type of wood ‘Mara‘]]. The wood used for manufacture of bow  – Kalu, Kaluvel and Pangan.

Us Dunu or Tall Bows  were those bows which was one to three spans taller than the user[ Deraniyagala- Sinhala Weapons and Armour- Deraniyagala- J.R,A,S(CB,) Vol XXXV pg 114].

Miti-Dunu or short Bows- Chadravanka Dunu– in shape of Crescent Moon or Suriya-vanka in shape of the circular bows; Trivanka Dunu or  bows with three curves are also mentioned in our medieval  literature.

BOWS[-Dunne ] and ARROWS- [ Iya or Igaha ].

The most important weapon of the ancient Sinhalese.

Few Archers known as Dunugaya of ancient past have placed their names on rock inscriptions during the period 300 BC-100 AD from Inscription of Ceylon Volume I.[ IC Vol I]

Calu, dunugaya: Saliya. the archer (IC-1. 490)

Hadaka, danuku: Sadhaka. the archer (IC.II, 39. 6)

Sumana, ,; the archer (IC.l, 846)

Dunu-acariya[ IC I,925] was a designation of who was not only proficient in archery, but also trained others in the skilful use of this weapons.

From Inscription of the later period , the Archers were organized into fighting formations. This is evident from the undermentioned inscription of the late Anuradhapura period.

The names for archery units in inscription

Dunu-madul – IC .Volume V No 34, A 12.

Dunu madula- in EZ[ Epigraphia Zeylonica] Vol Iv  No21 line 6]

Dunu- madulu- in EZ II -3. B- line 15-16.

The Archers were known as on inscriptions.

Dunupa- EZ II,6,  B line 21: IC Vol  III No 15 C, line 6

Duvuva- EZIII, N0 10, C 13-14.; IC Vol III No 78;

Dunuvavan- IC Vol II No 60 C 2-3.

Temple Painting.

Dunu-kaya [ IC I,1136] was a manufacturer of Bows, he was named Guta , a son of Paramuka[ A noble ].

The most famous archer was of the second century BC, Phussadeva, one of the champions or generals of Duttha-gamini, is described as being an extraordinarily expert archer, who shot , by ” flash of lightning, or through a horse -hair, or a cart filled with sand, as well as through hides a hundred-fold thick ; through an Asoka plank eight inches, an udumbara plank sixteen inches thick, as well as a plate of iron,too, and a plate of brass four inches thick. on .and his arrow would fly the distance of eight usabhas and through water one usabha;[Mah i, p. 92).An usabha is 149 cubits, or, about 204 feet.- H Parker.

S. Paranavitane in IC Vol I pg ixxi ” There is no doubt that Senpathi Paramuka Pussadeva of No 724 inscription at Vala-ellu-goda-kanda a Situlpavu is identical with Dutugemunu Senpathi. According to the Mahavansa, the birth place of this warrior was a village of Cittalapabbata[ Situlpavu]. Many other inscription is associated with him and his family by Dr Paranavitane. He was also a blew the Chank to bring terror to the enemy, he is associated with Inscription of Pussadeva at Sankapala Vihare at Embilipitiya which has a Chank engraved, and his grave is by the road side next to the Vihare .

This should not be taken lightly as the Bows of the Aryan tribes of the period were deadly feared weapons of war, It almost Killed Alexander with all his armour. To quote from D D Kosambi “The one clear Indian superiority was with the bow, a fathom-long weapon whose irresistible shot would drive an arrow through shield and breast-plate to kill the Greek hoplite. Alexander’s most serious wound was from such an arrow which, shot from close quarters, penetrated his armour to lodge deep in a rib, proving very painful and nearly fatal

About Arrows from our ancient texts, battle of Mahasenagama between Parakramabahu the First army led by Senpathi Lankapura Rakkha and rebel force of Queen Sugula.

“Now the warriors of both sides flung themselves at each other on to the battlefield. With the sparks born of the of their arms as they beat each other, starring the whole firmament as it by day, and with the outpouring of their rain of arrows filling all regions of heavens , they began the battle, letting their battle cry sound forth.”

The battle continues to Mahanagahula where General Lankapura soldiers take on General Sukrabhatu army.

” They betook themselves to the battlefield and with arrows sent unceasingly covering the whole sky and raising their thundering battle cry,slew the General and shattered the foe”

The comparison of the Mass of arrows as clouds darkening the sky and the battle cry is Thunder.

SINHALA BOWS;  Henry Parker- ” The correct length of bow is commonly considered to be a few inches  more than the height of the Man who carries it[ 5 ft 6 Inches approximately]. The British Museum has two bows about 7 ft 6 inches and 8 ft long.The is the Maha- Dunna or the Long Bow at a fixed measure of 9 ft.

Long Bow of Ma-weval Creeper

The strogest bow is out of Ma- Weval[ Calamus rudentum]. Creeper found in the rain forests of  Sri Lanka.These Bows are thicker than the common bow of other wood , such as those made  of the strong tough rib or the of the leaves of the Talipot Tree. These Bows are slightly flattened on the outer edge.

Bows of Talipot Tree flattened at ends

The Better Bows are highly decorated, been covered with patterns  in Lac of various colours chiefly Red, yellow and black, and in early designs also green.The bows have no notches; the string , Dunu-diya or Duna-lanuwa is made of the inner bark of trees or fibre of Niyanda plants[ Sansievera Zeylanica] is merely tied  permanently to at one end and looped over the other end when the Bow is about to be used. ”

Stone Arrow heads- Belihui-oya

ARROWS.They are about half an inch thick and 3 to 4 feet in length; they vary greatly in the size of the steel head[ Eethale]. which are 2 1/2 unches up to 18 inches in length, usual size being 4 to 5 inches. The ones in use now are thin narrow leaf shape and represents a a leaf of growing rice.The arrows-heads have distinct rounded butts, with an arrow stem or tang which is driven into shaft and they are invariably unbarbed .

Sinhala Arrows – Henry Parker

The arrows have usually four feathers of pea-hen’s wing, but  may vary from three to six Hard gum or Lac is occasionally placed  as protection from fraying, over the fine string which is used  for tying them to shaft.Th e shaft slightly narrowed between the the notch and the feathers..An illustration of a Yaksha from a vihare of North Western Province below show the manner of holding  the arrow and string, which is drawn by the first and second fingers, one being on each side of the arrow form of Quivers  or Hi-kopuwa hold seven arrows.-Henry Parker.

Bows  &  Arrows- According to the description of Kautilliy Arthasastra

 Made of Tala, Capa, Wood and Horn and known as Karmuka, Kodanda and Druna are Bows.

Murva, Arka, Sana, Gavedha, Venu and Sinews of animals are Bow Strings.

Venu, Sara, Salaka, Dandasana and Naraca are Arrows.

The mention of Bows and Arrow in te Mahawansa. Chapter and Verse no is shown in Red

Bow and arrows   Mahavansa  referances Chapter 6. 29 ; 7 19 ; 25.89 ff,  99. 33; 63.65 ; 35.31; 55. 6; 57.43; 66.27; 70. 114; 72.134; 72.246.;;72.250; 74. 96, 74.117 ; 83. 44 ; 96. 14

Poisoned arrows  76. 49; 83.38,83.45.

Gokanna arrows 76. 48.

Archers – 25.82;

69.19; Of one thousand  he made moonlight archers, versed in night fighting.

70. 116; 72.244, 72.322.

A Painting of Sinhala Cavalry carrying Spears at Ajanta cave.

LANCES, SPEARS AND JAVELINS

Dutugemunu had a Relic placed in his Spear when he marched with his four fold army from Mahagama, Tissamahrama. In his fight with his brother Tissa, Duttha-Gamini is mentioned as using a javelin while on horse-back; Prince Tissa who was mounted on an elephant, wore armour on this occasion that is, in the first half of the second century BC. (Mah., i, page 94). In Duttha-Gamini’s battle with Elara the Tamil, the Chiefs on both sides, who fought on foot, had swords and shields, while the two kings, who were on elephants, were armed with javelins( Mah., r, p. 99). In his battle with Elara’s nephew Bhalluka, the same king, who was on an elephant, is described as guarding his mouth with the handle of his sword when Bhalluka threw a javelin at him, one of Duttha- Gamini’s Yodhayas, who was seated behind the king on the elephant, also carried a javelin, but later on it is termed an arrow. H Parker.

The lance was called by different names in our palm leaf manuscripts. In Atuva -getapadaya it is called Adayati, also called sathi inPali, or Shankhi, hella etc. Shakthi was a weapon about  two Riyans[ ancient measure of lenght] long with a shape deadly tip of Deer antlars. The size of a closed fist and thrown with both hands.  makes a ringing sound in flight. Also used Thomara or Akusa

A lance bearer inscription of the late Anuradhapura  period , he is Kasub, kolpatti: Kassapa, the lance-bearer (IC.V,I, 30,C. 9; Sg. 92, 314).

 Henry Parker–” The Javelin or short throwing-spear, Visi-Hella, were employed chiefly  by soldiers who rode on elephants and those who defended City Walls and Forts.A very early date example of this spear found by Henry Parker is shown below.

A Spear-head of very early date from Tissa-H Parker

H.Parker has given an example of a modern weapon of the above type with a very large and thick handle, notched at one end, this type of weapon would have been used as a Pike and not as a Javelin[ Parker].

A Pike

The Spear or Hella was reported on a panel at Welana Damana in NCP. The Ridi-Vehare a soldier carries one with he is about to attack an enemy.It is an early type ,without side wings at base of blade which is seen in later weapons.

The shape of blade has undergone great changes in the island.The earliest specimens apparently of then pre- christian era, it is thick and nearly straight, one been about two inches  wide and seven and a half  inches long, with a somewhat broad rounded point; this forms has a half-socket at the base, formed by widening out the stem and  turning over the two wings thus formed until they nearly meet.

The two ancient Spear head excavated by H Parker

The next is a very large thin Spear head of a broad leaf shape, found at Tissa excavations, but broken. The blade was nearly to and a half inches wide and appears to have been seven and half inches long.

The third form  has a strong  very narrow, lengthened head, from six to eight and quarter inches long, traverse section of which is a cross with the angles filled up, this is sharp only at tip. Fitted to the shaft by four rivets or nails.

The third stage of Spears

Forth form is a long narrow  leaf shape,, with straight sides , like an enlarged arrow-head. It has no socket; the stem been lengthened and pointed, driven into  the end of the shaft, which is prevented from splitting by a an iron ring at the end.

Fourth Stage

The above type is reduced in length to 3 and half inches and widened at base to make a fifth  type.Mainly used for controlling wild elephants in Elephant Kraals.

The Fifth Type of spear- H Parker

Another type of spear head was narrow and elongated, with waved edge. Some had no sockets to receive the shaft ig 189 and 183.

=H Parker;183 – Spear with Wave shaped blade.

Winged Spear Heads.

Dutugemunu Helmet at Nikawewa Cave Vihare a curved relief  of 11 th Cent AD fig 217 evidently represents spears with wined heads , which were in use up to 19 cent AD. They resemble the fourth and fifth types.This  form of spear head ha two wings or Tatu. at the base of the blade, each being in shape of a half crescent. It may be described as a Trident with enlarged  and lengthened central prong.

THE TRIDENT OR PATISTANA.

This is an ancient weapon and is found on ancient Sinhala oblong Coins. They are on wall painting in temples Fig 192 and 196.

The Cheifs carrying the Traditional Sword,the Bow and Arrows,the Club and different types of Spears appear before the King- Kandayan Period.

THE BIDENT.

Found on ancient oblong coins, must have been an early Sinhala weapon.Found on slab early 12 Cent at Gaints Tank Mannar.

To right a Bident and a Shield- Gaint Tank , Mannar.

Gal – Dunna.

THE AXE- PORAWA. Two types of Battle axe,

a.the first was a Keteriya,189,199 , is a powerful amulet for protection against demons, is seen of ancient coins and sculptures. It has a narrow stem and the blade ends in a broad crescent, the convex curve of which is the cutting edge. A socket is made in the stem of the blade where the hamdle is fitted and the other ends projects out in a shape of a hammer-head called Honde[ H Parker]. This is shown on the panels of Ridi vihare.

b. The Yuddha Porawa. The true fighting axe of the Sinhalese. This is a much heavier weapon than teh Keteriya and has a straight cutting edge. Seen on tehpanels at Rid-vihare.

The symbol over the Elephant and under the Railed Swastika- An Axe?

THE CLUB- MUGURA is of wood or Iron is on painting as a thick heavy straight weapons and are usually painted  with a grey colour to denote it is made of iron. A curved form of iron club on vihare painting may resemble a throwing weapon.

Jetavana Dagabo- A Swords-men with Sheild under left arm.

SHIELDS. PALISA –a segment of a hollow sphere , circular in out line  having a one looped handle to be held in left hand ,as on temple paintings.

ARMOUR.

The statement of the force of Pussadeva arrow, give us a clue to protection required or at least somee materials used as protection against Arrows; though it may be exaggerated-

“………………..or a cart filled with sand, as well as through hides a hundred-fold thick ; through an Asoka plank eight inches, an udumbara plank sixteen inches thick, as well as a plate of iron, and a plate of brass four inches thick

These weapons are illustrated in the important historical events in the picture gallery of Prasanna Weerakkody. Please visit his web site

4 thoughts on “WEAPONS OF THE SINHALESE SOLDIER.

  1. Good page. I used pict. of Kandyan soldier’s in one of my presentations. Thanks.

  2. Very interesting and appreciate this effort. Please make comments of firearms used by Sinhalese in 16th and 17th century, especially on “Gingal”.

    • I am working on the first weapon made in Sri Lanka, I think it was after 1520, after Kotte kings army of Elepghants,Cavalry and Foot soldiers attacked the Portuguese Stockade and lost the battle due to Cannon fire off ships that moved and out flanked them. They got A Zamorin to send down a few Cannons and Firearms. I am trying to find more on the weapon first made the weapons like the Gingle etc , these is usefull for army Gunsmiths Training too. I amm told that GA nanayakkara[ anan@eureka.lk] is an expert on this.I too must draw out the firing mechnism and casing of Guns etc.If youn have any info please pass it on.

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